Ursa admonishes the rookie druid, "Alone?!? I am never alone when I am in nature. Open your eyes, my young friend, and you will realize that these caverns are every bit as wild and full of life as a grassland or forest. And in any case, I have more friends in the darkness than in the light," she adds cryptically.
Our heroes drag their burden of rope through the tight squeeze tunnel until they emerge into the larger cave full of puffballs. The Hobbets know they've arrived because the feeling of claustropobia is gone, replaced instead by a primal fear of yawning dark spaces. They reach out but cannot touch the ceiling above them or feel the reassurance of a solid wall beside them. If they were to let of the rope and wander off, who knows how they'd find their way home? Or maybe they'd take a wrong step and plunge into the Chasm! But they have faith in Ursa, and follow the rope single-file as the elder Druid leads the way north into the ripest patch of puffballs. If they could see, it would look comical: The puffballs magically part so that Ursa can pass between them, then snap back into Dame Simonetta's face, so that the Dame has to work twice as hard to keep up! Luckily she has above-average strength, and she shoulders on. Finally, Ursa comes to a halt and our Heroes bunch together in a small clearing.
"Look!" she says.
Carc gives an amazed squawk, but it takes the Hobbets a few moments to figure out why. Now that they have been in total darkness for a half-hour, their eyes have completely acclimated and become sensitive to the tiniest mote of light. Suddenly it swims into focus, all around them, the faintest specks of bioluminescense. Like deep sea creatures, the flora and fauna have brought their own light into the darkness. An entire ecosystem of cave crickets, salamanders, spiders, midges, gnats, beetles, fungi all bathing the cavern with their starlight. The illumination is almost too dim to make out, and your mind needs to be relaxed, which is why the Hobbets didn't notice this phenomenon during the brief, frenzied moments when their lantern went out in the previous Adventures. It is a wondrous and rewarding sight that few have had the privilege of seeing.
Ursa drops her rope, stands up, cracks her back. She pulls a briar pipe from the pocket of her robe and begins to tamp it down as she plays tour guide for our Heroes: "The Grand Chasm leads Beyond the Dungeon. The void below us is Wilderness, beyond the scope of Adventure Club and its mortal Rules. I've been down there before, several times, but I don't think you are ready to go Out-Of-Bounds yet. But this spot is a perfect place for my Research, at the edge of two ecosystems. It will be like collecting shells on the beach when the tide goes out." She takes a big rip from the pipe, and the Hobbets notice that, curiously, it doesn't produce any heat or light. She offers the pipe to the next in line while holding her breath: "Mmmmm?"